|Balanced offense makes No. 21 Xavier a dangerous team|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 06 December 2007 11:58|
David West. Romain Sato. Lionel Chalmers. All good guesses. All easy picks.
So, who's the leading scorer on this year's version of the 21st-ranked Musketeers, the one that's made quite an impression while going 7-1? Pick one of any six players and the guess could be right.
It changes from game to game. And that's the best thing about them.
Creighton became the latest team to learn firsthand how difficult it is to defend a lineup that has a lot of options. Xavier's 79-66 victory on Wednesday night over the previously unbeaten Bluejays was the best example yet.
Given openings against Creighton's full-court press, point guard Drew Lavender scored a season-high 28 points and had a career-high 10 assists, becoming the latest star of the day in an extremely dangerous offense.
``They're really balanced,'' Creighton coach Dana Altman said. ``They have a lot of guys that can score a lot of different ways.''
At least six. The Musketeers have that many players averaging double figures, underscoring their willingness to get the ball to whoever is open. Forward B.J. Raymond leads at 13.5 points per game, followed by Lavender at 12.6, forward C.J. Anderson at 12.5, forward Josh Duncan at 11.6, forward Derrick Brown at 11.1 and guard Stanley Burrell at 11.
Even if a couple of them are having off-days, there are plenty of other choices.
Raymond, Lavender, Burrell and Duncan can make 3-pointers. Anderson and Brown are adept at driving to the basket. Coach Sean Miller can quickly change the look of his offense with a couple of substitutions.
``On any particular night, we have different players who are capable of having a big night,'' Miller said. ``It's not always six players in double figures. It's the ability of a lot of players to have a big game.''
It starts with the 5-foot-7 point guard, who usually makes the right decisions about where to go with the ball. In the first seven games, he was more of a ringmaster, scoring in single digits four times.
When Creighton pressed and produced a fast-paced game, Lavender realized he was the best option. He had a season-high 17 points in the first half alone, making 3-pointers, floating jumpers and driving layups.
``That just came about,'' Lavender said. ``A couple of guys weren't hitting their shots tonight, but we're such a good team that a couple of guys can step up any night. Tonight was my night, I guess.''
Duncan missed his six shots from the field and finished with a season-low two points. Burrell was only 2-of-7 and matched his season low with six points. Lavender more than made up for it.
``He was the first option,'' said Raymond, who added 15 points. ``It shows you how good he is. It's hard to find a point guard who can score, who can run the team, take on the press. Basically, he does all the work.
Xavier scored 47 points in the first half against a defense that had been ranked No. 7 nationally, allowing an average of only 54 per game. The Bluejays hadn't allowed anyone to score more than 62, a mark that Xavier blew past with 9:39 left in the game.
``They just took it to us,'' Altman said.
Next up is crosstown rival Cincinnati, which is 4-3 with losses to Belmont, Bowling Green and Alabama-Birmingham. The Bearcats opened the season with an 86-75 loss to Belmont on their home court; Xavier beat Belmont 90-49 at home last week.
When they play on Xavier's court next Wednesday, the Musketeers will be a heavy favorite. Burrell, who has been the Musketeers' shutdown defender, will guard Deonta Vaughn, who is Cincinnati's only consistent scorer.
Xavier's players weren't ready to start thinking about the Bearcats yet. They were still analyzing their win over Creighton, which had won its last three games against the Musketeers.
``They're a great team,'' Lavender said of Creighton. ``We respect them a lot. But there's no special feeling. We were expecting to win.''